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The Actors

Ben Castles
Victor Barlow
Katherine Kennard
Owen Black
Rawiri Paratene
The C

Ben Castles plays Jeff Cox

Jeff Cox is 18-year-old Ben Castles’ first major television role.

He played rugby captain Simon Burrows on Shortland Street and has appeared in commercials for Toyota and KFC as well as a video clip for Anika Moa.

While he didn’t study drama, he acted in plays and musicals and enjoyed making speeches while at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton, where he attended up to 7th form last year. A friend of his family, Roslyn Brown of Artists on Line, suggested he take up acting seriously and signed him up.

He says he doesn’t regard himself as an actor, yet. “I can’t really consider myself an actor. I know nothing about it at all. Every day is really a learning curve. I’m interested in everything about this industry, so it’s quite nice to stand there while I’m waiting for my cue and ask the focus puller what he’s doing.”

He wasn’t a skateboarder before Hard Out, having done only a little at age 13, and is appreciative of the skill of the skate doubles, Brett Chan and Kevin Francis.

An Aucklander, he now lives in St Mary’s Bay. He attended the Hamilton school as a boarder, where he was very involved in sport, playing a lot of cricket, soccer and basketball. His passion is movies, particularly the Film Festival.

Castles describes Jeff as the classic teenager. “He loves skating and he loves sport. He has a best mate, Noodle and they get into a lot of mischief. Jeff’s pretty much just what I was a few years ago – doesn’t pay much attention to anything else around him, not highly interested in school and just out to have a good time and enjoy what he thinks he enjoys without much attention to the consequences.

“Jeff is definitely not too bright. He doesn’t pick things up very quickly at all and sometimes he doesn’t pick things up at all. Jeff is, yeah, Jeff’s dumb. But he’s got a kind of sweet charm about him that makes him quite innocent and harmless.

“But Jeff tends to think he’s quite smart. He’s got a confidence about him, which flows through his skateboarding and jumping off things without fear. He doesn’t pay much attention to what’s around him, and jumping off something without seeing what’s below doesn’t faze him because he hasn’t thought about what’s below and he won’t think about he pain until it actually happens. His confidence isn’t really backed up by any great mental aspect.”


Victor Barlow plays Noodle Pekapeka

Noodle is 18-year-old Victor Barlow’s first television role since graduating last year with A-grades from South Seas Film & Television School in Auckland.

He is from Hokianga, where he attended Northland College, studying drama in 7th form, which he really enjoyed and for which he earned top marks and which led to his decision to move to Auckland to pursue acting.

He says the South Seas course gave him confidence. “My confidence was way down and the whole standing up in front of people thing. Doing the course gave me confidence like nothing.”

After graduation, he performed in the school production of Ladies Night at the Pumphouse Theatre in Takapuna, which was followed by his auditions for Hard Out.

Barlow has played rugby all his life, but has recently given it up because he cannot risk injury with his acting career. H says he loves all sport and would only turn his back on netball and hockey because they’re “girly games”.

He says he was into skateboarding at about 13, 14, and could do some nice moves, but although he enjoyed it, it didn’t really grab him the way it does some people.

He likes cars, particularly Holdens, and currently owns his third one – a 1992 – no particular type, as long as it’s a Holden.

Barlow says Noodle “is basically just your average young Maori boy from New Zealand. He’s proud of where he’s from and proud of who he is and he enjoys hanging out like normal young fellows do. And when these Neo aliens are trying to take over the town, he definitely doesn’t want that to happen, so he tries his hardest by any means to stop the alien invasion.

“Noodle and his mate Jeff are totally into skating, basically they’re brainwashed by skating.

“He’s smarter than he looks and he has a unique combination with his mate Jeff. Noodle doesn’t really think he’s a brainy guy but he does just come up with these ideas and half the time they’re pretty good ideas. Some are fairly stupid ideas too.”


Katherine Kennard plays Astrid

Katherine Kennard is well-known for her role as Joni Collins in the popular TV2 series Street Legal.

She fell in love with New Zealand about 10 years ago, leaving her successful career as a model in Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand, moving here and attending the Performing Arts School at Unitec. She was at Unitec at the same time as Owen Black, who plays Brian, her fellow alien in Hard Out.

Born in England, she moved to Singapore as a 14-year-old, after her actress/singer mother re-married an English teacher and migrated. She started modelling as a teenager and worked in Asia and Australia, mostly on TV commercials.

Upon graduation from Unitec, she worked in theatre for about 18 months, then played the villainous and still-remembered Lucinda Reeves in Shortland Street, before auditioning for Street Legal.

After filming was finished for the first series of Street Legal, Kennard went to New York for further acting training at the Herbert Bergoff Studios.

She starred in the feature film Vector File, with Casper Van Dien and Catherine Oxenburg and attended the Cannes Film Festival with the film. Other recent roles include Dark Knight, the television series produced in Wellington for the British market.

Kennard is passionate about self-healing and spiritual and physical fitness. One day she would like to own a big herb garden and make medicinal herbs for use in natural therapies. She also plays guitar and writes songs and poetry.

Kennard thoroughly enjoyed playing Astrid, the alien in Hard Out.

“Astrid has this mission and that’s what will overrule anything. Meanwhile she discovers what it’s like to be human and that’s where the humour lies. She discovers human emotions and doesn’t necessarily like them.

“She behaves like a little child a spoilt brat of a child. Spoilt because she rules the world and she’s got all this power, but in fact she’s just nasty. She’s really nasty and it’s really fun to play.

“Being an alien, she’s the type of character where as an actress you have to be completely detached from your heart and from your soul and you’ve just got to think with your head all the time. She’s a thinker and she doesn’t care. And that’s how I created her first of all - as just data, computer data, as if all she needs is a computer in her mind. But through the filming she’s evolved into a character and is actually more emotional, perhaps even more out of control of her emotions than your average human.”


Owen Black plays Brian

Playing the Neo alien Brian is Owen Black’s first major television role, after several guest roles in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules, The Legendary Journeys, Street Legal and Shortland Street.

He had lead roles in the telefeature The Bunker Murders and the one-off drama special Killing Tomorrow, the Extreme Team pilot and a short film, This Present Tense.

He has a background in theatre, starring in Christchurch’s Court Theatre productions including The God Boy, Cabaret, Travesties, MacBeth and Kiwifruits.

From a farming family in North Canterbury, he was always interested in art and is a painter and printmaker. He spent time in Japan, working on skifields and sport shops. After spending some time in London and travelling, he returned to New Zealand, having decided to become an actor. He began in amateur drama in Christchurch, then moved to Auckland, where he enrolled in Raymond Hawthorne’s renowned drama classes. Hawthorne encouraged him to attend the Performing Arts School at Unitec, where he met his fellow Neo alien, Katherine Kennard.

He has also acted before with Rawiri Paratene, who plays Gran Pekapeka. They were a desert nomad father and son in an episode of Xena Warrior Princess.

Black says an earlier work of Hard Out director/executive producer Chris Bailey was a major influence on his life when he saw it as a boy. “A thing that really inspired me was when I found out that Chris Bailey directed Under The Mountain, which was a mind-blowing series for me. It really captured my imagination.”

He describes Brian as “a bit of a bumbler. He tries to do everything right. He’s very serious but it never quite comes off and it’s very comical. He’s extremely weird and unusual but he doesn’t realise it.

“Brian starts to have feelings, he gets into music and that kind of thing and he starts to take on human characteristics. And because he keeps feeling so much, he foils the aliens’ plans a lot, through no fault of his own. When Astrid tries to upgrade his software, she can’t because he’s actually growing a human heart. He’s a great character.”

He also enjoyed the variety of disguises Brian takes on. “He’s got the best costumes. His normal costume is a black corporate suit and an alienesque silver shirt, but he’ll turn up at the beach in what he thinks is appropriate – a loud Hawaiian shirt and sandals. He even gets into school uniform when he’s trying to bond with Noodle – a grown man with a ponytail and little grey shorts pulled up far too high.”


Rawiri Paratene plays Gran Pekapeka

In a radical casting idea, ScreenWorks selected award-winning actor Rawiri Paratene to play Gran Pekepeka – a male playing a female – and Gran’s not a drag queen.

Paratene, perhaps best-known for his portrayal of Joe Hudson in Shortland Street and Mulla in What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, plays Koro in the feature film Whale Rider, and starred the Mataku anthology series.

He won best actor award at the New Zealand film and television awards in 1997 for the TV drama Dead Certs and won best writer, drama award in 1989 for the television drama Erua.. He has a Maori Writers Award, three Mobil Radio awards and was awarded the Robert Burns Fellowship in 1983.

His other feature films include Arriving Tuesday, The Day Morris Left, Accidents and Rapa Nui. Television drama includes Love Mussel, Xena Warrior Princess, Duggan, Governor Grey, Pioneer Women and Joe and Koro. He began his television career as a presenter on the well-loved Playschool (1981-86).

His theatre career is substantial and includes the hit play Waiora, which toured New Zealand, Hawaii and England and attended the Brighton Festival. He starred in the New Zealand Festival production of Blue Smoke. Earlier theatre productions include Foreskin’s Lament, MacBeth, Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Cabaret and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and many others.
Paratene says Gran is “bossy - a cantankerous housie playing old kuia who loves the kids and will protect them – as long as it fits in with her own schedule.”

He says when he read the script and grasped the potential of the character of Gran, he decided he really wanted the role, so “I did some homework.

“I went out and visited one of my oldest aunties and went to housie with her. And I did some thinking about a particular auntie of mine who is probably the most cantankerous person I’ll ever know, and the boldest person I’ll ever know as well. She used to sing loud out of tune at the back of the church, she had this voice that used to cut through the air – really strong. I quite often sing a hymn like that to myself before we shoot just to get into the tone of the character.”

He enjoyed the freedom the script and the company gave him with the character. “She’s funny. I’ve been able to play with the script a bit, and come up with my own stuff, putting in some Maori and just coming up with funny terms that probably don’t mean anything to anyone else but me. I enjoy her drifting off into te reo.”

Paratene says his youngest son is 14 and he senses that Hard Out will hit the mark with him and his mates. “Two kids up against the world, two kids who are the only ones who can see the truth, is a great thing to do in a TV series because that’s how a lot of 14-yesr-olds feel.”



Jeff                  Ben Castles

Noodle             Victor Barlow

Astrid              Katherine Kennard

Brian               Owen Black

Gran                Rawiri Paratene

Anahera           Catherine Stephen

Stevo               Antony Starr

Hughie             Stephen Hall

Tank                Kate-Louise Elliott























































Hard Out Image